29 November 2009

Birthday lunch at D'Amico's Kitchen, Minneapolis

In my last post, I lamented the closure of two of my favorite 'special occasion' restaurants in Minneapolis. (Scroll down to read it.) Another Minneapolis standout that closed during the economic downturn was D'Amico Cucina. It had been many years since I ate at D'Amico's, but many people felt it was the best Italian restaurant in town.

Well, the creative energy behind the original D'Amico's combined with the hip, stylish venue of the Chambers Hotel and I think I have a new special occasion favorite – D'Amico's Kitchen at the Chambers.

My brother and I decided to try it for our annual joint birthday lunch. I always liked the the sort of stark, industrial space that the old Chamber's Kitchen had in the 'basement' of the hotel. D'Amico moved the main dining room to the lobby level (which had been a bar before the changeover). The new space is bright and airy. As you'll see in the photo below, the big windows provide diners with views of the bustle of downtown Minneapolis. I could see down the stairs, and it looked like there were tables still in the basement, so I asked our server what they were doing with the space. He said that they used it as overflow when the upstairs dining room is full.

Speaking of our server, he was great. Since Mike and I had an early lunch reservation, it wasn't particularly crowded when we arrived. But our server gave us lots of personal attention. He also gave some helpful information about the menu and good recommendations.

D'Amico has a prix fixe lunch option – a starter, main dish, and dessert. Since we were celebrating, we decided to go for it.

Mike started with spicy fried calamari. It was very good. The spiciness was not overwhelming, and the calamari were tender and tasty. It was a huge serving, way more than one person would order as a lunch starter. It could have easily been split between the two of us. My starter, on the other hand, was definitely an individual, starter-sized serving. I had tuna crudo. It was sashimi grade tuna with avocado and melon, lightly dressed in olive oil, chives, lemon peel. It was very light and absolutely bursting in flavor.

For our entrees, Mike had a veal meatball sandwich with provolone cheese. It also was a very generous serving, and it came with a side of fries. The meatballs were very flavorful, and there was a side of marinara sauce for dipping. I ordered orecchiette with a fried cherry tomato salsa, pecorino cheese, and arugula. It was fantastic. The flavors were very fresh and blended nicely. It was not a huge serving, but ample for me.

For dessert, we both ordered baked almond frangipane crepe with mascarpone at the recommendation of the server. It was a very good ending to a special lunch.

I was very impressed by D'Amico's Kitchen. I can't wait to go back and try it for dinner.

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